Software testers are increasingly moving upstream to collaborate and work with the developers across releases. While this holds good for a lot of test areas, one test area that is now playing catch up is accessibility. A lot of organizations that have so far not thought about accessibility are now looking at it either voluntarily or under the mandate enforced by compliances such as Sec 508, DDA. It is always better late than never – so certainly a good move forward by organizations, but this is one area that will now take us back to the traditional style of bottoms-up software testing. Since in most cases, we are working on legacy software that is already in production, what are the strategies that would work well here?
Have the accessibility team start with the most critical applications and evaluate them in line with mandates across a range of disabilities – Today, there are ample browser built in toolbars, assistive technologies, checklists such as VPAT that are available in addition to manual reviews. There are also tools that run through the entire application to spurt out accessibility specific issues. The tester could start with such sources and then work his way up to picking the most relevant ones taking into account the cost and time constraints on hand.
In addition, a crowd team of real end users with disabilities can be brought in for a bug bash to report their feedback too. Some may not be defects per se, and could be suggestions for a better accessible application. Such suggestions may not necessarily be feasible in the legacy application given the complexity of the fix, but may be great inputs for future applications that are built.
The feedback from live issues reported is also great place to start. Whatever the source of information be, today when we look at accessibility in legacy products it is certainly a bottoms up approach. With the right focus expended to this area, hopefully the scale will soon tilt where we can move from bottoms-up to a top-down approach for accessibility too, taking all these current learnings into the future products that are built.